In Partnership with The 74

The trailblazers: Of the first 40 charter schools in LAUSD, half are still open

Mike Szymanski | September 11, 2017



Students play at Watts Learning Center’s elementary school, one of LA’s first inner-city charter schools. It celebrates its 20th anniversary this month.

California school districts started authorizing independent charter schools in 1993.

The reformers who created them were inspired to try a different model of public education — one they believed had the potential to better serve disadvantaged, low-income students who were disproportionately stuck in lower-performing schools. Public charter schools were granted flexibilities to have a longer school day, pay teachers more, and design their own education programs, without having to abide by bureaucratic requirements or provisions in a district-wide teacher contract.

Charter schools had greater autonomy to innovate and to create learning experiences customized to the needs of students. In exchange for this autonomy, they are held accountable for student achievement gains and other metrics by their authorizer.

• Read more: Watts Learning Center, one of LA’s first charters, celebrates 20 years this month

LA Unified had some of the first of the 1,228 charter schools that now exist in the state. There are 224 independent charter schools in LA Unified, and 1,306 district schools, which include 54 affiliated charter schools that have some autonomies but still follow union labor agreements and are under the umbrella of the district.

Here is a list of the first 40 schools that were authorized as charters in the district. Some converted back to traditional district schools, some have closed, and half are still in existence today.

Read Next